Give me a head nod or an audible “hell yes” if any of the following statements apply to you.
You show up and do what is asked of you, when it’s asked to be done.
You went to college in hopes of making a difference.
You graduated college with a degree that you thought would propel you to the career of your dreams.
Over and over again, you have done the right thing. You showed up when you didn’t want to, studied when you had better options, and did everything you were supposed to do.
You did good enough to get the job done in all areas of life, but now you sit and wonder:
“Why is my life not ‘good enough’ after all of the good work that I’ve done?”
Getting your bobble head on yet?
Like me, you were a good boy who followed the rules and did what was asked. You signed up for your career or occupation hoping to climb your way to the top, at which point you would retire and sit on a throne of cash that you had accumulated.
College. Career. Retirement. Pension.
The good life.
But it doesn’t all add up, does it?
You feel like you’re stuck in this purgatory of achievement; making enough to pay the bills, but not enough to travel, save, or do anything fun outside of work.
You Were Sold the Prize, Not the Process
When you sat down to pick a career, you were likely drawn to many things that don’t necessarily have to do with the day to day grind.
If you were thinking about becoming a lawyer, you may have been sold on the stage of the courtroom, making your case on your way to a nice paycheck for your services. What you didn’t consider were the endless hours of case studies, paperwork, and sleepless nights that produced the end result you envisioned.
If you were thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, you may have been sold on your ability to choose your own hours, travel whenever you want to, and make good money doing what you love. What was absent from that vision were the amount of hours, sweat, and tears you have to put into your product or idea before you get to live that lifestyle.
If you were thinking about becoming a teacher, you may have been sold on the chance to make a difference in a kid’s life, drawing students in with your passionate approach to your content area–the pension and benefits ain’t too shabby, either. What you may not have considered (and I hadn’t either) are the piles of papers to grade, the kids who give zero shits that you exist, and anyone and everyone who love to offer their opinion on how to do your job better.
You were sold on the end game. You were sold on the perks of the job. But no one ever stopped you to talk about the process that might break you along the way.
Since the process wasn’t one of the selling points for your ideal life, you aren’t all that invested in putting in that kind of work. You hoped that you could punch in on day one, go through the motions for 30 years, and come out on the other side with the lifestyle and awards that you signed up for.
But you can’t. That’s not how it works, my friend.
Going through the motions is the best way to either hate your job, get fired, or have that entrepreneurial venture fall flat on its face. Since I’m assuming you’d like to avoid any and all of that, let’s take a look at how you can fix this broken perspective that you bought into way back when.
Become a Linchpin
You may have been sold on the prizes of your chosen career path, but the process is what you deal with on a day to day basis. You can’t shift into autopilot and ride that out until retirement if you expect to climb the ladder or create massive success for yourself. If cruise control is your default setting, you will probably just have the same mundane experience year after year.
In order to make a difference and make the most of your time spent with a given company or project, you need to become a linchpin.
A linchpin is someone who is indispensable.
A linchpin is the first person your boss thinks of when he wants something done right.
A linchpin is someone who brings the most value to their company, business, or entrepreneurial venture.
In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin gets into the finer details of what a linchpin is and why becoming one will bring you more success than you could imagine.
Here are the cliff notes:
- You are bigger than your job description. Anyone who thinks that they are only responsible for what they were hired for won’t get very far. Become someone who is willing to do more than what their title entails. Your job is to do whatever you can to bring value to your company.
- You don’t need a career change, you need a mindset shift. Many people believe their job setting is the issue. Often times, though, it has less to do with where you’re working and more to do with how you’re working. Don’t think that just because you show up to work every day that you deserve your paycheck. Your paycheck is earned by bringing your best to every task that you engage with while you’re there. Attendance isn’t why they pay you; they pay you to show up as your best self every single day. Give more value and you’ll receive more in return.
- You are an artist. I don’t care if you’re a mechanical engineer or a musician, everyone is an artist. By approaching our work as an artist, you will give more of yourself as you perform. If you see each day as a list of tasks rather than a performance of your best stuff, you will stay stuck and disappointed with each monotonous day that passes.
The book is genius. It will knock you upside the head and reframe how you view your work and its purpose in the world. Trust me, just go grab a copy.
The Good Life is Relative
Alright, we’ve gone over why you’re frustrated with your career (you were sold the prize!) and how to make more of an impact within it (become a linchpin!), now it’s time to get real about your end game.
You want to be successful.
You want to be wealthy.
You want to live the good life–after all, that’s what you were sold.
But the good life is relative to you.
Don’t spend your days grinding away when, in reality, you’d be completely content living a simple life. Before you dive head first into shifting your career into high gear, just make sure that you know what you’re working for in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a big house, fancy car, and the ability to travel on a whim.
There’s also nothing wrong with wanting a quaint home, a mid sized sedan, and the comfort of your hometown.
That decision is yours to make and yours only.
Just because our culture blinded you to what your life and career would actually look like, doesn’t mean that it’s too late to open your eyes. Once you wake up and realize that you have more control over your destiny than you’ve previously believed, you can start pursuing your dreams with more enthusiasm.
Your life wasn’t meant to be put on pause until you retire, walking out with a fat pension to enjoy the rest of your days with. You can live an amazing life starting today.
Forget the prizes, fall in love with the process, and be the best damn participant in said process.
Whatever your version of “the good life” is will find its way to you faster than you’d expect.
Until next time my friends,